Boundary Objects and Prototypes at the Interfaces of Engineering Design
The primary hypothesis of this paper is thatinternal and external changes in design andmanufacturing organizations affect theviability of boundary objects (representations,drawings, models – virtual and physical) andrequire changes in the underlying distributedcognitive models. Internal and external factorsinclude new advances in technologies, insightsinto organizational processes, organizationalrestructuring and change of market focus. Ifthe above hypothesis is true, then there areconsequences for the methodologies of designingcomputational support systems for co-operativeengineering work. We provide evidence bydescribing three empirical studies ofengineering design we have performed in largeorganizations. We investigate how changingtechnologies disrupt the common grounds amonginterfaces and how this opens debate onthe role of boundary objects, especially in theproduct visualization and analysis arena. Wethen argue that changes in market forces andother factors leading to changes inorganizational structures often lead to erosionof common understanding of representations andprototypes, above all at the interfaces. Weconclude by making the case that everystructural and information flow change inengineering organizations is accompanied by thepotential deterioration of the common ground.This requires the synthesis of new commongrounds to accommodate the needs of newinterfaces.